There is a reason I haven’t made much of a presence in online groups including the unschooling ones. I was reminded why the other day.. The trolls. I see them a lot on FB groups who are pretty extreme in a particular belief. You’ll have your people dissing Ron Paul on a libertarian group, I see vegans condemning meat eaters on Paleo sites, I’ll see anti-breeders on parenting sites, people flagging pics on breastfeeding pages that promote extended breastfeeding, and strict schooley types on unschooling sites. You’ll even see moms bashing other moms for believing a slightly different way-like those who vaccinate and those who don’t on natural parenting sites. Sometimes the trolls are even people you know-old friends or family who believe a different way. Or people who just like to argue and think they are playing devil’s advocate but really are just being difficult. Sometime you can ignore them and they will go away. If you are real friends you might even be able to say butt out of this conversation. But sometimes the trolls are actually the moderators and other seasoned commentators. One particular group is especially irritating to me. Its partially irritating because I want to like it, I want to be a part of such a well-intentioned group and I actually even like many of the people involved in it. I avoid it for long periods of time and then for some reason I check in. Maybe because I’m seeking answers or a little support. But every single time I go on I see the same thing. The main leaders are completely picking apart, like vultures, something posted by another person. There isn’t the support or kindness I was looking for. Instead of offering anything helpful they are busy posturing or giving what they call tough-love. They claim to be doing it for quality and I understand the importance of moderation and streamlining information. I like proper grammar and spelling, I’m not a stickler for it but I think a fairly decent use of it is important to make your point in writing. I also adore words and try hard to choose the right ones even when posting a comment on FB. But I also understand from experience that people use FB partly because it allows for quick conversation. I don’t have to write out a big letter or spend hours on the phone to communicate with someone. I can make a quick scan for a few minutes while I’m eating, and make a few replies before someone in this family of 5 needs me to do something else. Sometimes my comments are typed one-handed with improper caps and punctuation because I’m holding a child. Sometimes, because I only have a few minutes, or from lack of sleep, I do reply with as few words as I think necessary to get my point across but after reading later I realize its not enough for another person to understand. And sometimes I just write how I think or how I talk and unless you know me, the personality of those words can be misconstrued. For instance I’m matter-of-fact and without much elocution when I speak. I’m not easily offended or dramatic but if you read those words with a whiny voice or a defensive tone in your own head, then the words take on another meaning. I think many people who communicate on lists and pages fail to see this. They don’t put themselves in the other persons place and they don’t look at it from other perspectives. They are quick to judge and quick to attack. They read it with a voice or personality that doesn’t fit the poster at all. Instead of asking for clarification they assume. I’ve seen them use the excuse that they’ve been there done that. They are experienced in their “field” and I appreciate their knowledge. However I do not think they’ve experienced it all and sometimes fail to answer with compassion. Its especially annoying on parenting sites when parents of older children, one child, or evenly spaced children think their advice should apply to a parent with twins, or young children. Even though they’ve had young kids sometimes they seem to forget the particular struggles and ways to communicate with younger children. A “this too shall pass” does not help. Worse yet when a parent writes for advice or support and the other parents attack that person and get irritated at them for having that sort of problem. For instance I do not always handle my stress well. But if I went on certain sites and asked for advice or just to vent I’d be attacked for having those feelings in the first place. If I suggested a technique to someone struggling I’d be told that techniques are wrong and to just be kind. I know because I’ve seen it. And if I tried to clarify, to explain my circumstances, or yadayada, they’d find more to pick apart and say I was changing my story. (I’ve seen that too) But sometimes stories do change because we’re writing them when in a high emotional state and sometimes we say things we don’t mean or in a way that we don’t mean to say them. I think its wrong of them is because these are sites by unschoolers and attachment parents who proclaim giving children support but they can’t even offer that to their fellow parents. All I usually need to get over the funk, is to tell a good friend about it and bask in her unconditional love, sometimes listen as she gives her perspective and I not only feel better but I can better approach the situation. And sometimes I do think a technique is just a way to practice so that kindness become part of being. I wish these sites could be more like a true support system because my local one isn’t always available. And I know some haven’t yet found a local support system and go online for the help they need. For now, I just avoid them. I’m not going to make a name for myself in any online community because I don’t want to be constantly dealing with conflict. I prefer to spend that time actually being with my kids instead of writing about them. (It takes me weeks often to write a blog post because I am busy being in the real life world.) Sometimes I wish I could expand my circle to include friends from all over the world. From lurking, I certainly know there are a lot of people out there that I like. But for now, I remain silent and now you know why.
This is a reminder to myself as much as it is advice to others…This isn’t to say they aren’t useful or that others shouldn’t and couldn’t gain from them. Just be careful. Lurk a long time and learn the moderators “rules” before contributing. And if you don’t feel the love move to another group. Don’t stay there and be attacked, or feed the trolls, or become one yourself. If looking for certain advice, trying searching past posts for discussions similar to your need. Often instead of these groups I’ll go to ctual websites that have a ton of advice for a ton of issues without all the petty bickering. Remember you’re looking for support not to be bashed.
Sites I really find useful:
Parenting and Unschooling:
Food and Nutrition:
Politics, History, Economics: (still searching for some)